Late autumn hikes in the High Tatras

Late autumn hikes in the High Tatras

Autumn brought more restrictions to Slovakia. Travelling around the country got more difficult. At one point people were recommended not to travel, or I should say, not allowed to travel to the districts severely affected by the corona pandemic. But if you tested covid negative you could.

So in the middle of November, not having gone on a trip for about two months, I was growing increasingly restless. My feet were itchy. Especially, seeing the weather forecasts for weekends. I had to go somewhere. I had myself tested and I was negative. My passport to freedom.

I was longing for the mountains. For a nice hike. So I decided to go and spend a weekend in the High Tatras. One of my favorite places in Slovakia. It takes hours to get there. I left home in the morning and reached Štrbské Pleso at 1 PM. Not a bad time to go on an afternoon hike. In summer that is.

Hike #1:

Štrbské pleso (1.350 m) – Popradské pleso (1.510 m) – Sedlo pod Ostrvou (1.966 m) – Popradské pleso (1.770 m) – Popradské pleso, zast. (1.250 m)

Distance: 15,5 km

Total ascent: 786 m

Total descent:  886 m 

I had some ideas where to go hiking but the village of Štrbské Pleso was covered in thick fog. So I gave up on the idea of hiking to Predné Solisko, one of the very few peaks accessible in winter time, and chose to hike to Popradské pleso, to take advantage of the spare time I had on my hands.

Štrbské pleso shrouded in fog
Beautiful winter art
Beautiful winter art

The word ‘pleso’ can either mean a mountain lake or more specifically a tarn. The hike takes about an hour so I would save my energy for the following day. But as I was gaining on altitude the fog was disappearing and to my surprise the weather was a great deal better just a few hundred metres higher. So I started considering my options. Where to hike on from Popradské pleso. A lot of trails are closed from 1 November. But there is one which isn’t. The trail to the saddle below the Ostrva peak.

The weather was improving as I was ascending
Popradské pleso
Hiking up from Popradské pleso
Looking back at Popradské pleso

It’s a rather steep trail requiring one to be in good shape. I wasn’t sure if I’d have time to manage to go up and all the way down to one of the villages. I decided to give it a shot. The temperature was low and so the rocky path was frozen and slippery. Luckily, just at the beginning close to the lake. As I got higher the conditions improved. I started hiking from the lake at quarter to three and I knew it would be completely dark at 5 o’clock. I had to hike 2.5 kilometres up, 2.5 km down to the lake and about 3.5 km to the nearest train station.

The sun had almost disappeared behind the clouds. I met quite a few people hiking down while I was the only one going up. It took me a little less than an hour to reach the saddle. I was ecstatic. Although the sun was low and behind the clouds the sunset was gorgeous and so were the views. I hiked on from the saddle to the peak as I hadn’t been there before. I was there alone. To enjoy the beauty. I was blissfully happy and so glad I had decided to go up. And thankful, too!

Reaching Sedlo pod Ostrvou (1.966 m)
The view from the Ostrva peak
Looking in a different direction
The zigzag trail I followed

I only spent there a couple of minutes to make it to the lake before it got dark so as not to hike on the slippery rocks without enough light. When I reached the lake it was almost dark and I had about 45 minutes of walking left. Fortunately, there is a paved road and so it’s easier and also safer to walk there. Still, I can’t say I felt at ease. There were tall trees over the road and so it was quite dark. In addition, it got cloudy and foggy at the lower altitude so the moonlight couldn’t help me see the way. There weren’t other hikers around and all I could think were the hungry bears which pay regular visits to the villages at the foot of the Tatra mountains to look for food. Also, I was thinking about all the hikes I had done in Canada feeling uneasy because of all the bear warnings on the trails.

I made it down just in time to catch a tram. I was relieved I had made it because they only ran once an hour. Sweet!

Popradské pleso from the top
At Popradské pleso minutes before it got dark

Hike #2:

Štrbské pleso (1.350 m) – Chata pod Solisko (1.820 m) – Predné Solisko (2.126 m) – Chata pod Soliskom (1.820 m) – Štrbské pleso (1.350 m)

Distance: 10 km

Total ascent/descent: 776 m 

The weather was better on the following day. It wasn’t foggy in Štrbské Pleso, I was actually above the clouds. A sea of clouds. It was glorious. I decided to go for the original plan. Hike to Predné Solisko. It’s not a long hike and after the hike on the previous day it was just about enough. It was sunny and warm. A great day to spend in the mountains.

Štrbské pleso
Štrbské pleso
Štrbské pleso

I started hiking at 10 o’clock and I reached the hut Chata pod Soliskom in about an hour. I bought a cup of coffee and enjoyed it drinking outside while watching the beauty of the sea of clouds in the valleys below. After that I hiked up to the peak which took me about half an hour. The sun had hidden behind the clouds, yet the views were magnificent. There were too many people for my liking but the beauty beat it. I spent over an hour there! I loved it.

Hiking up and looking back at the valley shrouded in fog
Mlynická dolina (Mlynická valley)
Chilling at Chata pod Soliskom before the final ascent
The final ascent
Mlynická dolina
Happy to have reached the top
I loved the multiple layers of the cloud cover
At Predné Solisko
Looking at the surrounding peaks

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